Video Poker - FAQ

Hello Professor, would it be possible for you to provide an optimal strategy for Crypto’s double bonus poker? Also, could you recommend a strategy generator that will create a near-optimal strategy for any video poker game with any paytable?

Jan from Ontario, Canada

There are two software programs that can produce near optimal strategies for almost any video poker game. One if Video Poker Strategy Master by Tom Ski and the other is Frugal Video Poker by Jean Scott. Winpoker 7.0 promises to offer this feature as well but as of this writing it is not out yet. I don’t like to give away too many video poker strategies for free because other experts have to make a living selling video poker software or strategy cards.

My wife and I play Aces and Faces in Tunica, MS, on a regular basis. We have used the basic Jacks or Better strategy as indicated on your site. Is this the optimal strategy for this game? If not, can you tell us what the optimal strategy would be on this game? Thanks.

Vance & Ashley Dennis

No! You can get a near optimal strategy for almost any game with Video Poker Strategy Master or Frugal Video Poker.

Do you have a book on various versions of video poker, or can you recommend a book where can I get strategies for Bonus Poker, Double Bonus, Tripple Bonus, Double Double Bonus, and Tripple Double Bonus?


Video poker does not suit itself well to books. There are so many different games and pay tables, and they add new ones so quickly, that a book would be dry and quickly outdated. I recommend getting video poker software that can produce a strategy for almost any game. Two examples of such software are Video Poker Strategy Master and Frugal Video Poker.

While playing triple-play should any of your strategies change? Example: 4 cards to an inside straight w/no pay cards showing. Should we go for it or throw the entire hand for a fresh deal? Thank you. Also: what is your personal opinion of playing triple play ($1.00) opposed to single play ($1.00) machines? My husband and I play only video poker and have been for 10 years

Ray and Katherine from Florida

Given the same pay table the strategy is exactly the same for 1-play, 3-play, 100-play, and any-play. Personally I prefer the multi-play games if the pay tables are the same. However the multi-play games usually have stingier pay tables. The more the hands, the worse the pay table.

I know that in video poker, the cards are selected at random -- but are they selected at the instant the button is pushed for both deal and draw?


I think different video poker makers do it different ways. On all at least the draw cards are determined when the player presses the button. I think some also determine the draw cards at this time. Others keep shuffling the remaining 47 cards until the player presses the button to draw the replacement cards.

Some of the online progressive video poker games, like Playtech’s MegaJacks, reset to a base after a win (I seem to recall they reset to $325). But others drop down but not to a set value. For example, the Viper game Jackpot Deuces seems to drop back a different amount each time, often to a still sizeable new level. I don’t see the "algorithm" behind this. Any insights into what they (and others) might be thinking/doing?

Gary K.

Often with progressives part of each dollar bet goes to seeding the next meter. This way when somebody pops the jackpot the next meter does not start at a small amount but the secondary meter has already grown to a respectable amount. The percentage devoted to the second meter is not necessarily constant but sometimes increases as the primary meter grows. Not that you asked, but in some games like those at Be the Dealer there is a different jackpot for each coinage, and each jackpot is proportional to the coinage. The way I think they do that is what I call a "super meter" that all coinages contribute to. Then each specific coinage gets a share of the super meter in proportion to that coinage divided by the sum of all coinages. For example if they had a progressive video poker game in coinages of 5 cents, 25 cents, $1, and $5 and the super meter had $100,000 then the $1 game meter would have (1/6.75)*100,000 = $14,814.81.

Do video poker machines that tell you what to hold, use the optimal strategy? If so, isn’t it inevitable that the machine will eventually lose money?


Most machines I’ve seen that tell you what to hold do use the proper strategy, but the better the paytable, the less likely the machine will be to offer advice in the first place. And I’ve never seen a machine with a positive expectation that told you what cards to hold.

As for the accuracy of the advice -- Microgaming Internet casinos do follow optimal video poker strategy. However I’ve played some machines at a racetrack in Delaware that advised the player on which cards to hold, and the advice was clearly incorrect.

I do my best to make only "smart bets" and to avoid machines with lousy pay tables. I must admit I just don’t have the time to memorize the ever increasing number of different configurations out there. I do know that casinos ban photo equipment, but is it ok to bring in, say, a pad and paper so you can record the pay tables of certain machines and look them up at home? Or better yet, bring "cheat sheets" right into the casino? Right now I’m afraid to do so because I don’t see anyone else doing it and would be afraid that they’d 0ify my payout if I were to hit a jackpot based on some rule that I wasn’t aware of. Any insight? Thanks!


Yes, I take notes in the casino all the time. The only time I have had trouble was when the Suncoast prohibited me from playing slots and writing at the same time when I was taking notes for my Las Vegas slot machine survey. Camera usage seems to be much more tolerated lately, so lately I have been taking pictures of rule screens and pay tables when I have my camera available. I also usually have cheat sheets in my possession when playing video poker, in case I run across a hand I don't know how to play, which is rare. I keep the cheat sheets hidden but have never had a problem whipping them out in a pinch. The reason you don't see other players with cheat sheets is about 99.54% of video poker players don't know what they are doing and the rest have the strategy memorized.

When playing video slots and there is the option to stop one or more wheels or to stop all of them, does that change the outcome of the spin or would the results have been the same if you did not use the touch screen? Great site. Keep up the good work!

Kevin from Fallon

Thank you for the kind words. I passed along your question to an industry insider. Here is his reply.

Manually stopping video reels early has no impact on the outcome. If it did, this would make it a true physical skill game, which is not legal in any US class 3 gaming jurisdiction that I know of. In fact, in some states, physical slot games which can award cash or prizes are allowed only if they offer a true physical stop mechanism which turns the device into a physical skill game.

I have looked at many video poker strategy charts, and many are different. Are they, or should they be, the same based only on probabilities and nothing else? I asked one author and he said that he "tweaked" the charts, but gave no method.

Jack from Georgetown

Video Poker strategy charts are not an exact science. There is always a tradeoff between brevity and accuracy. There are also issues about the best way to express a rule. Unless there was a huge emphasis on simplicity, it is unlikely two writers would come up with the same strategy.

The video poker machines at a particular casino all say "This machine pays 80% of the time or better." This seems inconsistent with your percentage of about 53% throwaway hands. Is this to make the game more fun, but then adjusted to have lower payouts or something like that?

Diana from Albuquerque

It is probably not a real video poker machine, but a "pull tab." In jurisdictions with heavy regulation, like New Mexico, players should be careful that they understand what they are playing. With a pull tab the win is predestined. The cards are just for show.

I’ve been told that a casino’s selection of video poker can be a good indication of their slot looseness. The idea behind it is supposed to be that if a casino is willing to put a lot of full play poker on their floor then they will also likely put more loose slots. Does this hold any truth or is it just a myth?

Omer from Freemont, CA

I think that theory holds water. When I did my Las Vegas slot machine survey, I found the looseness of a casinos slots and video poker was highly correlated.

Which video poker game has the most variance?


My best guess is Royal Aces Bonus Poker. I’ve seen it only once in Mesquite years ago. It pays 800 for four aces, but compensates with a lowest paying hand of a pair of aces, as opposed to the usual jacks. Here is the return table.

Royal Aces Bonus Poker

Hand Pays Combinations Probability Return
Royal flush 800 490,090,668 0.000025 0.019669
Straight flush 100 2,417,714,292 0.000121 0.012129
Four aces 800 4,936,967,256 0.000248 0.198140
Four 2-4 80 10,579,511,880 0.000531 0.042460
Four 5-K 50 31,662,193,440 0.001588 0.079421
Full house 10 213,464,864,880 0.010709 0.107090
Flush 5 280,594,323,000 0.014077 0.070384
Straight 4 276,071,121,072 0.013850 0.055399
Three of a kind 3 1,470,711,394,284 0.073782 0.221346
Two pair 1 2,398,705,865,028 0.120337 0.120337
Pair of aces 1 1,307,753,371,584 0.065607 0.065607
Nothing 0 13,935,843,099,816 0.699126 0.000000
Total 19,933,230,517,200 1.000000 0.991982

The standard deviation is 13.58! That is over three times as high as 9-6 Jacks or Better at 4.42.

However, if you limit me to games that are easy to find, my nomination is Triple Double Bonus, with a standard deviation of 9.91. Here is that pay table.

Triple Double Bonus Poker

Hand Pays Combinations Probability Return
Royal flush 800 439,463,508 0.000022 0.017637
Straight flush 50 2,348,724,720 0.000118 0.005891
4 aces + 2-4 800 1,402,364,496 0.000070 0.056282
4 2-4 + A-4 400 3,440,009,028 0.000173 0.069031
4 aces + 5-K 160 2,952,442,272 0.000148 0.023699
4 2-4 + 5-K 80 6,376,626,780 0.000320 0.025592
4 5-K 50 31,673,324,076 0.001589 0.079449
Full house 9 206,321,656,284 0.010351 0.093156
Flush 7 311,320,443,672 0.015618 0.109327
Straight 4 252,218,322,636 0.012653 0.050613
3 of a kind 2 1,468,173,074,448 0.073655 0.147309
Two pair 1 2,390,581,734,264 0.119929 0.119929
Jacks or better 1 3,944,045,609,748 0.197863 0.197863
Nothing 0 11,311,936,721,268 0.567491 0.000000
Total 19,933,230,517,200 1.000000 0.995778

This question was raised and discussed in the forum of my companion site Wizard of Vegas.

Is there any hand in video poker where there is a tie for the highest expected value but not a tie in variance?


Yes! There are lots of situations where there is a tie for the highest expected value. For example, a dealt four of a kind in Jacks or Better. It doesn't make any difference whether you hold the kicker or not. Another is with a dealt two pair in full pay deuces wild. The correct play is to hold just one of the pairs, and it doesn't matter which one. However, in both these examples the chances of each possible outcome is the same on the draw.

A hand where there is a difference in variance is in full pay deuces wild with a hand that could be played as three to a straight flush with two gaps or four to an inside straight. For example, suited 8-6-4 with an off-suit 7 and king. The following two tables show the expected return of each viable play.

Holding Three to a Straight Flush

Hand Pays Combinations Probability Return
Straight flush 9 15 0.013876 0.124884
Flush 2 63 0.058279 0.116559
Straight 2 31 0.028677 0.057354
Three of a kind 1 45 0.041628 0.041628
Loss 0 927 0.857539 0.000000
Total 1081 1.000000 0.340426

Holding Four to a Straight

Hand Pays Combinations Probability Return
Straight 2 8 0.170213 0.340426
Loss 0 39 0.829787 0.000000
Total 47 1.000000 0.340426

The bottom right cell of each table shows an expected return of 16/47 (34.04%) for each hand. However, the variance of holding four to the straight is 0.564962 and three to the straight flush is 1.397524.

My thanks to Bob Dancer for bringing this hand to my attention.